July 14, 2008

Students at the University of the Fraser Valley.


Students at the University of the Fraser Valley hone their construction skills at the school.

University of the Fraser Valley combines trades training with academics

In the world of construction-industry professional development, there is a facility in the Fraser Valley that is definitely marching to its own drummer.

The University of the Fraser Valley’s Faculty of Trades and Technology has developed a program it feels is unique in North America.

The difference is that the university is busy mixing trades training with academic learning.

Construction trades training being offered includes architectural drafting, carpentry and joinery, electrical electronics and welding.

“Our objective is to have educated trades people,” said Harv McCullough, dean of the Faculty of Trades and Technology at the university.

“We look at the value of education versus the value of training and study how the two can mix.”

At any time there are between 350 and 400 students at the school and that is expected to grow to as many as 600 within a year.

Students at the University of the Fraser Valley

Trades students at the University of the Fraser Valley will still need to find time for academic study.

Given the nature of trades training and apprenticeships, it is not the same 400 or 600 at the end of the year as it was at the beginning.

It is a constantly revolving student body.

McCullough pointed out that even before the provincial government made several university colleges full-scale universities the Fraser Valley College had been moving in that direction.

It has faculties of this and that rather than schools.

In the case of the University of the Fraser Valley there are four faculties: Arts; Sciences; Professional Studies and the Faculty of Trades and Technology.

There are a couple of ways in which it manages to mix trades and academics together.

The first involves an entry level program, which is basically a pre-employment program.

It sees trade students enrolled for between seven and 10 months.

When they finish they are capable of moving into a second year apprenticeship.

It also means, however, they are at the university long enough to take advantage of some of the academic courses.

One example is communications.

“These students come out with communications skills as well as with their trade skills,” said McCullough.

“We want our people to be university educated, not just trained.”

The most impressive mixing of trades training and academic learning, though, involves the university’s Bachelor of Business Administration (trades management).

The program is aimed directly at men and women who have successfully completed their apprenticeship training and have their trade qualifications.

They may want to continue further in the construction industry either by moving into senior management in a large firm or by starting and running their own company.

The degree is offered through the University of the Fraser Valley’s Faculty of Professional Studies.

It is possible to complete it in 14 months.

A more common scenario, however, is a student, who is already working full time, taking several years to finish the course on a part-time basis.

“We think that being able to provide education as well as trades training is a huge advantage,” said McCullough

Rolf Arnold is the director of trades and technology.

He is more than pleased to display the impressive equipment students have to work with.

There is, for example, 40 separate welding stations as well as a state-of-the-art welding robot. There is also a top of the line routing machine and a molding machine.

The facility even has an unfinished mini-condo complex where electrical students practice their trade.

Although it is not actually considered construction, the auto mechanics area was impressive. It has just received a gift of seven near new trucks and cars from General Motors.

Between the two of them, Dean McCullough and Rolf Arnold have more than 50 years of experience both as tradesmen and as instructors.

Their pride in their new Chilliwack facility is very obvious.

The university (until recently it was called the University College of the Fraser Valley) serves 10,000 students.

Its main campus is in Abbotsford, in the central Fraser Valley but it also has satellite campuses in nearby Mission as well as in Chilliwack in the eastern end of the valley.

The Chilliwack campus is sparkling new having been opened for less than a year.

Virtually all the university’s trades training is now centred in Chilliwack.

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